SHAKESPEARE could be coming to the streets of Sunderland as the city bids for a multimillion -pound arts investment.
Investors from Sunderland and South Tyneside have teamed up to bid for a £3million slice of Arts Council cash.
Business leaders – with council backing – want to bring a package of events and activities to three deprived wards in north Sunderland and two in South Shields.
Redhill, Southwick and Hylton Castle in Sunderland have been targeted as areas with traditionally low take-up of cultural events.
Dubbed The Cultural Spring, it is hoped the three-year programme of projects and performances could leave a lasting legacy for the city.
Partners Sunderland Music, Arts and Cultural Trust, the Customs House Trust in South Shields and the University of Sunderland are aiming to bring music, arts and culture to more than 52,000 people.
It is hoped that The Cultural Spring could reach an estimated 30,000 in north Sunderland and 20,000 in South Tyneside.
Entrepreneur Paul Callaghan and former Echo editor Rob Lawson are among the driving forces behind the application.
Paul said: “These are post-war housing estates that were built to house people that worked in the shipyards and the mines.
“Many don’t have great cultural facilities.”
He added: “The funding is initially for three years, but what we are trying to do is change the way people in these communities see arts and culture.
“We hope people of all ages will start to get involved in activities they have never been involved in before.
The cash injection could see exhibitions in school halls, open-air performances at Hylton Castle and attract world-leading organisations to the city – such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, WildWorks and the BBC.
Arts bosses in Sunderland also hope to play on Southwick’s strong links with Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
More than 30 national and local partners are already on board, including a host of creative hubs, such as the National Glass Centre, The Bunker and Washington Arts Centre.
Music stars The Futureheads, have also given their backing to the project, along with Events International, the group behind Durham’s popular Lumiere event.
The Arts Council England has already handed out grants from a £37million funding pot to eight locations across the country in the last 18 months.
A further £20million is up for grabs for the next seven successful applicants.
It is thought just one of these will be in the North East, with Durham and Teesside also in the running, after bids were submitted on December 12.
An shortlist is expected to be drawn up at the end of February.